The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State
by Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin
First Published in 1871Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.
This work, like all my published work, of which there has not been a great deal, is an outgrowthof events. It is the natural continuation of my Letters to a Frenchman (September 1870), wherein Ihad the easy but painful distinction of foreseeing and foretelling the dire calamities which now beset France and the whole civilized world, the only cure for which is the Social Revolution.My purpose now is to prove the need for such a revolution. I shall review the historicaldevelopment of society and what is now taking place in Europe, right before our eyes. Thus allthose who sincerely thirst for truth can accept it and proclaim openly and unequivocally the philosophical principles and practical aims which are at the very core of what we call the SocialRevolution.I know my self-imposed task is not a simple one. I might be called presumptuous had I any personal motives in undertaking it. Let me assure my reader, I have none. I am not a scholar or a philosopher, not even a professional writer. I have not done much writing in my life and have never written except, so to speak, in self-defense, and only when a passionate conviction forced me toovercome my instinctive dislike for any public exhibition of myself.Well, then, who am I, and what is it that prompts me to publish this work at this time? I am animpassioned seeker of the truth, and as bitter an enemy of the vicious fictions used by theestablished order - an order which has profited from all the religious, metaphysical, political, juridical, economic, and social infamies of all times - to brutalize and enslave the world. I am afanatical lover of liberty. I consider it the only environment in which human intelligence, dignity,and happiness can thrive and develop. I do not mean that formal liberty which is dispensed,measured out, and regulated by the State; for this is a perennial lie and represents nothing but the privilege of a few, based upon the servitude of the remainder. Nor do I mean that individualist,egoist, base, and fraudulent liberty extolled by the school of Jean Jacques Rousseau and every other school of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the rights of all, represented by the State, as a limitfor the rights of each; it always, necessarily, ends up by reducing the rights of individuals to zero. No, I mean the only liberty worthy of the name, the liberty which implies the full development of all the material, intellectual, and moral capacities latent in every one of us; the liberty which knowsno other restrictions but those set by the laws of our own nature. Consequently there are, properlyspeaking, no restrictions, since these laws are not imposed upon us by any legislator from outside,alongside, or above ourselves. These laws are subjective, inherent in ourselves; they constitute thevery basis of our being. Instead of seeking to curtail them, we should see in them the real conditionand the effective cause of our liberty - that liberty of each man which does not find another manpisfreedom a boundary but a confirmation and vast extension of his own; liberty through solidarity, inequality. I mean liberty triumphant over brute force and, what has always been the real expressionof such force, the principle of authority. I mean liberty which will shatter all the idols in heaven andon earth and will then build a new world of mankind in solidarity, upon the ruins of all the churchesand all the states.I am a convinced advocate of economic and social equality because I know that, without it,liberty, justice, human dignity, morality, and the well-being of individuals, as well as the prosperity